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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« A post from the slanty room. | Main | Hello. I live in Jersey. »

Settling in but still unsettled.

Yesterday we went to a nursery. To buy babies! I made that joke to, oh, eight people yesterday. “Get it? Babies? Nursery? Ho!” No one laughed. I am surrounded by jerks.

Anyway, yeah, we bought plants and stuff. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea how not to kill plants. On the other hand, I am excellent at killing them. Here’s my method.

1. Bring a plant into my house.

2. Attempt to care for it. You’re supposed to water them, right?

3. As it begins its slow journey to the grave, alternate weeks of avoidance and denial with bursts of panicked and clumsy tending.

4. Throw it out. Vow never to buy a plant again.

I walked up to a gaggle of nursery people and asked for their help. I was looking for some lovely yet not-easily-murdered flowery plantiness I could perch on our front stoop. I was hoping one of them would get up, pick out a plant and place it in my hands.

But they kept providing me with information. I couldn’t process it. My mind wheezed.

“You could get a zerbertifora, or a ferfilligan,” they mused.

“Well, isn’t that the obvious choice?” I said.

“Really, you’re safe with any annual,” one of them said.

“What’s an annual?” I asked. They laughed.

“No, really,” I said, and they looked concerned for me.

I ran away from them and continued my disorganized, roundabout search for pretty crap to plant. I grabbed some stuff, but probably it was all the wrong kind. It was hard to concentrate, what with all the yelling at my son I had to do.

These days I like to yell at Henry at least five or twelve times an hour. I feel that this builds character. If I continually address him in a high-pitched shriek, he’s sure to be filled with love and respect for me! So: “WOULDYOUSTAYSTILLYOUCAN’TRUNINHERE.” Or! “STOP. TWIRLING. RIGHT. NOW.” Alternately, “OH MY GOD I NEED TO LOOK AT THIS. THIS PLANT THING. STOP PULLING AT MY ARM. LISTEN. ARE YOU LISTENING. YOU’RE PULLING AT ME SOME MORE. GAAAAAAACK.” When I wasn’t losing my shit, I was tsk-ing at my husband for the loss of his. “He’s just a baby,” I would murmur calmly to him. “Please, have some perspective.” It’s amazing how much more tolerant you can be when you’re merely observing the irritating behavior.

Sadly, most of the time I'm more than an observer. It seems these days that anything I want or need to do will be frustrated by Henry’s opposing desire. I am either being yanked one way when I’m trying to go another or sat upon when I need to get up or pulled off a chair when I need to sit down. He aims to thwart me. All the time. And I’m not enjoying it.

I find myself employing the horrible Clenched Teeth Hiss and the Strangled Cry of Blinding Rage. I am becoming that horrible mother who holds her kid’s hand a leetle too hard and walks a little too fast as he trips behind, yelling “You’re hurting my hand!” These episodes are usually followed by the need to weep or throw up. Or, hell, both! Every day, several times a day, I marvel that I’m not locked away somewhere.

It doesn’t help that I’m enjoying some rather breathtaking back pain (did you know that your back can hurt so much you can barely breathe, and yet you still remain conscious? I know it now! And yes, I’m getting medical attention, thank you concerned readers). And the constant pain is reducing my tolerance to, oh, about none.

It never fails to amaze me how someone I love so very much can incite in me so much anger. That I can be so angry at someone who is so goddamn adorable. When he goes to bed every night, he announces, “It’s time for me to tuck up,” and he pulls his blanket up over his head. Tuck up! Every time he says it I want to eat him. And his little candy toes.

I know we’re all under a crazy amount of stress, and I’m clinging to the hope that we’ll all begin behaving better, and soon. That’s what I’m doing right now—I’m clinging. I know this will pass.

At the end of the nursery trip, as we stuffed our car full of assorted plantery (I made a word!) Henry turned to me and said “I always love you, no matter what.” And then we sure as hell got some ice cream.

Reader Comments (100)

This is my first time to comment, though I've been a faithful reader for a while now.

Today's post inspired me to 'delurk' because I am absolutely relating to the constant irritation that a 3 yo can cause. A big part of my frustration stems from the discomfort of being 8 months pregnant. It's really not fair to my son, actually... I've kind of changed the rules on him. Whereas previously I would have been happy to walk to the whole length of the park with him, now I demand that he stays within a small radius while I sit on a bench. He complies for a time, but the minute he sees another child run through the park, he follows. Then I can be seen waddling after him, yelling that he needs to stop, he's going too far, come back, come back right NOW, and feeling like a a complete ass. My face gets flushed, my heart rate soars, and after I've finished marching him home (holding his hand a little too tight, of course), I have to do 10 minutes of deep breathing just to get my blood pressure back to normal.

For now, my solution is to stop taking him out. Thank God, my husband gets home pretty early and can do all of the public ventures with the boy. They do the shopping, and they do the park playing. I simply do not go anywhere with him on my own. This is a temporary luxury, though. After I have this baby and I no longer have the excuse of my enormous-belly-as-physical-handicap, I'll have to develop some different coping strategies. God help me.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTricyclist
Oh my gosh, I'm so there with you. It's 90-something degrees and I'm 27 weeks pregnant and I have this amazing rage just waiting for any moment to come out.

And oh boy! With a three year old around, it sure does come out a lot!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersilvermine
Can I steal "a delicate balance of self-absorption and irony" as my blog tagline?

I felt extreme pointy dismay when I became a hissing hand-yanker, but somehow through a combination of apologizing and explaining when necessary ("I'm sorry I snapped at you; I didn't get enough sleep last night", etc.) -- something I *never* experienced on the other end, believe me -- and continuing to still be "awesome mom" most of the time, I was able to come to terms with it. As always, love the blog.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwiseacres
Oh, the snobbish lameness of it.... Absorbtion Vs. Absorption. Not only do I get to offer the cheap labour, but I also manage to get my Latin intervene at some odd moments. My spelling misfortunes need be attributed to "absorbare". Damn Latin/Italian; love sent in spades.

May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertsena
Ah! Finally, a chance to use my wisdom, gained from parenting both a 6 year old girl AND a 3 year old boy! Here is is, my pearl of advice: don't sweat it. Henry will do faaaaar more evil things in the future, and you will react with strange calmness. You will think, "Oh, he just bit that old woman. What an interesting developmental milestone." And then he will continue to be mildly obstructive, and when he drops his drink for the second time while out shopping, you will react as if he had just, oh, I don't know - bit an old woman.

Terrible Two's, my ass - the time from three to four was far more trouble with my daughter, and my son is bearing out this theory. Solidarity, sister!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVelma
I'm glad to know I'm not the only one sqeezing my four-year-old's hand a bit too hard. And he will say to me, "Please, please don't shout mom. It hurts my feelings." Then I give him cupcakes for breakfast.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMandy
Tsena! Too much latin is always a problem. You must stop being so smart.

Re: why so much stress, I think just being in a new place and living this new lifestyle and missing our friends and being so utterly unmoored is a big part of it. There's other stuff, too, but really I think that's enough.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
And wiseacres--hands off! That tagline is totally mine, baby. I called it.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
If it's any consolation, a lot of my friends and I have talked about how, for the most part, we don't remember our moms being irritable with us all that much (at least not as much as we are with our kids), but I'm SURE they were, especially since they all had even more kids yanking on their arms and running wild through clothes racks than us. I think kids grow up remembering the love they're showered with 99% of the time.

That being said, I'm opening a nice, big bottle of wine in honor of all us overwhelmed, grouchy moms. Cheers.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJackie
"Of COURSE you need to yell at the kids sometimes," my husband says, "but do the VEINS have to pop out of your neck and SPIT fly out of your mouth?"

May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPaxilMama
Ahh, be glad you have not yet resorted to The Strapping of The Child in the Human-Leash.

Because if you did that, and took pictures, you would not only get hate mail from the public who actually WITNESSSED the event, but also from the readers who see the pictures.

So! The yelling and the screaming are a much more viable option, yes?
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjes
I'm right in your shoes - only my daughter is 4. But yesterday after I stopped crying because she was being more of a terror than ever (and on MOTHER'S DAY - the nerve!) she came up to me and told me I was pretty. How can you be mad at a 4 year old that looks at your puffy, red, tear streaked face and say that? Ah - the joys of motherhood!!

BTW - I've killed CACTI before. Don't ask me how.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Please let me know which plantery ends up being successful for you. Also, if it ends up being successful for you, could you come to my house and plant some more of it?

I also have no idea how to plant or care for anything. And, I hate squatting and getting my hands dirty (and being in close proximity to living things like worms.) If you want to feel better about the way your lawn and/or porch looks, please come look at mine. Thank god the Russian woman who lived here before me planted many an annual, all of which still keep coming up each year. (or are those perennials?)

Hope you are feeling calmer and all happy gardener-y very soon!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterE
"It never fails to amaze me how someone I love so very much can incite in me so much anger."It is very mysterious how these tiny, sweet, adorable, edible people can get to us.

May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeverlee
Moving is SO stressful. I finally stopped doing it every year and finally figured out where all the drama in my life had gone. Blame your irritation on transitional anxiety.

I can so identify about the plants, especially wanting someone to say "buy this!" and not getting it. I've banned all plants and we bought a house with no backyard, but we still had to hire a lawn service--no kidding--to mow and mulch the little strips surrounding the house.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
oh. my. god. i am totally going out tomorrow to buy some zerbertifora, or a ferfilligan.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlaurie
"And then we sure as hell got some ice cream."

Ah, ice cream--the only thing that keeps me from selling my children. Or worse!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
Hang in there, Alice. We're all rooting (ha) for you!

May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterspaulson
I am currently experiencing the same dilemna with my little boy...many, many, many days I feel like the worst mom in the world and yet this little kid still loves me. How amazing is that?
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLora
I was afraid to have children because I couldn't even keep my plants alive! But I did anyway... And now he's two-and-a-half and we're moving in a few weeks, so any tips or advice on what helped Henry with the move would be most appreciated!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
You're going to be just fine! You definitely DO NOT need to be locked up! It's a very stressful time where everyone is adjusting, and I definitely know about back pain. It's hard to be pleasant when you can't quite straighten up without gasping because the pain knocks the breath out of you!

You do, however, need to realize that some plants won't grow inside. Can you give us a list of what you bought? If you're not sure, can you look at the pictures and descriptions on the little stick-like things poking out of the pot? We may be able to give you some guidance! How very cool would that be!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
Yes. Yes. Ice cream.'s worth it's weight in staving off future therapy. All will be well. Ice cream. By the truckload.

And this:

"It’s amazing how much more tolerant you can be when you’re merely observing the irritating behavior."

I'm getting that tattooed on my forehead.

Okay, maybe I'll settle for a t-shirt.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjozet
There used to be a great comic strip called Eyebeam. In one strip, the main character is making up with his roommate and best friend after a fight. He says, "How come we always fight with the people we care about?" and his friend says, "Well, you have to fight with someone, and a stranger might hit you."

That is my personal mantra on bad crabby days around here (mine or the kids'). My kids have candy toes too at the end of a day (at least, if they've taken a bath), what a coincidence!
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMagrak
You should have your husband buy plants for you (as a nice gift!) A guy can walk up to the sales person, put on his "i'm just too confused by all this" look, and ask for an unkillable plant. Like, you know, a weed. But pretty. And they will patiently pick one out for him. Especially if it's a gift for his stressed out wife.

As for the kid, boys will rapidly become deaf to the sound of your voice if you keep warning them. You should stop warning him about everything for awhile. He will inevitably do something stupid that either gets him hurt or embarrassed. Then you can smile knowingly.
May 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Question - do you think (fear) the nature of your blog will change with the move to the burbs?
May 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMary

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